by Alex Sims, March 19, 2013
In the eyes of Deron Williams, Monday night's tilt in Detroit only could have ended one way—with a Brooklyn win.
After a Sunday night loss to Atlanta, the Nets embarked on their eight-game, 17-day road trip with the bitter taste of defeat on their tongues, and D-Will was determined to wash that taste out against the Pistons.
So, he responded with a tenacious 31-point effort in just 28-plus minutes on the floor in Brooklyn's 119-82 dismantling of Detroit.
"We needed a win. That's the bottom line," Deron said. "[Sunday's loss] was a tough pill to swallow and we needed to bounce back and this was a must-win for us. I was just trying to be aggressive to make up for (Sunday) night when I didn't feel like I was being aggressive enough. I just wanted to kind of impose my will a little bit on this game."
D-Will's point-a-minute performance started right from the opening gun, as he harassed the Detroit defense for 14 points and three dimes in the first 12 minutes.
The Nets started to separate early when D-Will intercepted a pass thrown by Pistons center Greg Monroe. Without hesitation, he ran the floor and found Gerald Wallace on a lob in transition for a monstrous alley-oop flush.
From there, No. 8 went to work with the ball in his hands and sized up Detroit guard Jose Calderon. On one particular play, he crossed Calderon to create space then nailed a step-back jumper to give the Nets an 11-point advantage.
The Pistons were able to construct a string of answers on the scoreboard behind Monroe and Rodney Stuckey, but D-Will and the Nets continued their relentless offensive attack.
Late in the quarter, Deron pulled out one of his quickest and slickest moves of the season. As Detroit was still setting up its defense in transition, No. 8 attacked, going straight at Stuckey. As the Piston defender stumbled back, D-Will flashed a lightning-quick 360-degree spin through the lane and finished with a soft-touch layup off the glass.
That move brought the Brooklyn lead back to double digits, and from there it would only grow. Two possessions later, Deron went with a powerful move from the left side and soared for a dunk attempt over Detroit's 6'10" power forward, Jonas Jerebko.
D-Will's dunk try didn't quite go down, but he flashed a smile at his teammates afterward, knowing how close he was to his first successful slam of the season. After the game, he hinted that his first dunk of 2013 might still be on its way.
"I'm used to doing that," Deron said of his dunk attempt. "Just because I haven't done it this year doesn't mean I can't do it. It's not like I haven't done it in my career."
Nets center Andray Blatche corralled the rebound of D-Will's narrowly missed dunk, which allowed for some redemption for his point guard. Deron knocked down a triple off a crossover at the top of the key to close out that possession and finish off the first quarter with Brooklyn in front, 36-23.
In the second quarter, D-Will and the Net starters were able to take a breather, while the Brooklyn bench stretched the team's advantage. The Net reserves, led by MarShon Brooks and Jerry Stackhouse, combined for 18 points in the second.
Deron had plenty to say about Stackhouse after the game. The 17-year veteran hadn't seen the floor for the Nets since Jan. 26, but despite the long layoff, Stackhouse finished 5-of-6 from the floor for 10 points while adding three assists and a block.
"He was ready. That's the one thing about Stack, he's always going to be ready to play when he gets his number called," D-Will said. "He came out and gave us some big minutes, a big spark. It's good to see him back out there because we're going to need him in the rotation, especially come playoff time."
After Sunday's loss to Atlanta, D-Will aired his concerns about how the team handled the rotation of players over the course of a game. The message may have gotten through, because whether it was brought on by the return of Stackhouse or a team-wide effort, Deron noted a boost in continuity between the first and second units on Monday night.
"I feel a lot more comfortable out there," he said. "I think as team we feel more comfortable with each other. Our chemistry is getting better. I just want to keep building on that, keep being aggressive on both ends of the floor and help my team win."
With that added chemistry came a 15-point halftime lead for Brooklyn. However, with the often-troublesome third quarter looming, D-Will wanted to ensure that the Nets wouldn't fall victim to another collapse after halftime.
As No. 8 continued the attack in the third, Brooklyn owned the quarter and put the contest out of reach for the Pistons. Deron added 14 more points himself and facilitated as well, including a drive and kick to Joe Johnson for a corner three — one of D-Will's five assists on the evening — that put Brooklyn up 22 points, 80-58.
D-Will also created an old-fashioned three-point play of his own when he drove hard at Detroit forward Charlie Villanueva. No. 8 saw his shot go down despite a push by Villanueva in defense. He then finished the play at the line, as the Net lead crept toward the 30-point mark.
The lead finally hit 30 late in the quarter when No. 8 set a pick for Brooks on the baseline, then rolled off toward the perimeter. He took a pass from Wallace in stride and buried a long three to give him 31 points and the Nets a 30-point advantage.
Seperate the Miami Heat and there is not a player in the Eastern Conference playing better than @deronwilliams right now.
— Ryan Ruocco (@RyanRuocco) March 19, 2013
D-Will. 14 in the first. 14 in the third. Goodnight. #Nets
— Mike Mazzeo (@MazzESPN) March 19, 2013
Deron Williams is playing like a superstar point guard. It's the Pistons, but even so. Not letting Detroit get back into it. #Nets
— The Brooklyn Game (@TheBKGame) March 19, 2013
The Brooklyn front line rested for the entire fourth quarter, as the second team built a lead as high as 43 points before closing it out. The win bought Brooklyn some breathing room in the Eastern Conference standings, as Atlanta, Chicago and Boston—the three teams trailing the Nets—each lost on Monday.
It was also the Nets' 29th win against an Eastern opponent, which ties them with the Miami Heat for the most in-conference wins. Brooklyn remains No. 4 in the East and No. 2 in the Atlantic Division, one game behind the New York Knicks, who topped the Utah Jazz on Monday.
The Nets (39-28) will now face a string of six Western Conference foes as their eight-game, 17-day road trip rolls along on Wednesday, when Brooklyn travels to Dallas to take on the Mavericks (32-35).
D-Will and the Nets were encouraged by their victory to start the road trip and hope that it will set the tone for the remainder of the voyage.
"Hopefully this jumpstarts this trip," Deron said of Monday's win. "We struggled last night and bounced back tonight. We played really good basketball and I was really impressed with our defense, especially in the third quarter. If we can play like that consistently, and execute the way we did on offense, we'll be fine."
The Nets have only met the Mavs once this season. Dallas traveled to Brooklyn and picked up a 98-90 win on March 1st despite a game-high 24 points from D-Will.
For No. 8, the trip will be a bit of a homecoming. D-Will grew up in The Colony, Texas—just north of Dallas. In the offseason, Deron contemplated signing with the Mavericks before ultimately choosing to re-sign in Brooklyn. Usually, he is lauded by his hometown crowd, but expects a different reception this time.
"Usually, I get cheers. Now I'll probably get booed," D-Will said of his return to Dallas. "I don't know why. I didn't leave. I never said I was going to go there."
D-Will's return to Dallas at the American Airlines Center will be nationally broadcast on ESPN at 8 p.m. EDT on Wednesday night.
- Nets crush Pistons to open 8-game road trip (Associated Press, March 18, 2013)
- Nets begin long trip by blowing out Pistons (Newsday, March 18, 2013)
- ‘Angry' Nets romp Pistons, 119-82 (New York Daily News, March 18, 2013)
- Deron scores 31 as Nets pulverize Pistons (New York Post, March 19, 2013)
- Nets rout the Pistons to open road trip (ESPN New York, March 18, 2013)
- Nets Look Impressive in First Stop of Their Trip (New York Times, March 18, 2013)
- What A Difference A Day Makes: Nets 119, Pistons 82 (The Brooklyn Game, March 18, 2013)